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Interview: Jules Rendell, singer

24 August 2018

‘Singing is an amazing tool to open up your spirit to God’

I like to describe my music as electro classic soul. It’s not officially a genre, obviously, but it describes the soft electro nature of the production, the soulful vocals, and the classic melodies of the songs.

My first memories of loving to sing are from when I was about six or seven, staring longingly at the choir loft, wishing I could be up there. I annoyed my siblings with constant harmonising to pop songs, and basically sang all the time. Around 15 or 16, I figured out that I wanted to be a full-time musician, but it was my singing teacher at the time who convinced me to do singing as first study rather than cello. It was a good decision. I still play the cello sometimes, and I play the piano.

Being an independent artist is difficult. It cost about £12,000 to make the album, but I ran a kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to raise £5000 as pre-orders, and contributed about £7000 of my own earnings. The actual making of the album probably costs about £5000, but there’s all the PR, distribution, videos, manufacturing costs for CDs, photoshoots.

You can always be a musician and earn money if you have talent and work hard — it’s just making the music that doesn’t earn money until you reach a certain level, with people backing you. People under 35 generally don’t buy CDs: they stream music. If you do gigs, you don’t earn much money after you’ve paid the band. But, if you get your music synchronised for TV and adverts, you make some from that.

I’m inspired by thoughtful, poetic lyrics within soulful settings. I love great musicianship — even if it’s raw. Last week, I dug out Bill Withers’s Live at Carnegie Hall album from 1973. It’s certainly not perfect, but it has so much vibe — something that is lost in today’s perfectionistic world. I’m also very inspired by classical music. The talent and work that goes in to creating masterpieces by composers such as Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky, Debussy is so far beyond what I create, it’s incredible.

I write my own music, and play it live. I’ve produced a number of tracks myself, in the past, but my best music has been produced by others. One thing that the music industry does well is collaboration. Two brains are better than one.

The theme of my debut album, Imagine, is mental health, but not just women’s mental health. A lot of the stories are based on my own experience, but some have come from watching others, including men. As I was writing the album, I was dealing with depression, perfectionism, unbelief, stress, lack of drive — and I had to dig in to God, with the help of my friends, to come out of a low place. Each song is a key to maintaining good mental health, whether it be thinking and speaking positively over myself, imagining good things not bad things happening, letting go of fear, or remembering what God has said about me.

Women aren’t my audience to the exclusion of men — I think that everyone can enjoy the music and appreciate the message. It’s an album for music lovers.

I don’t think women do have career equality with men yet; but it is certainly improving. I also think that problems with confidence and self-image aren’t necessarily growing at a faster rate for women — they’ve always been there — but I do think it is growing for men more than ever before. With the rise of social media, many more men are anxious about their appearance, and we see that in gym-going, weight training, and protein shakes. It’s the same for women: social media, taking selfies, advertising, and celebrity culture make us feel a little less worthy if we aren’t beautiful, styled, successful, and happy. Not only that, we have to post photos with a moral or uplifting message and help charities along the way. In 2018, the pressure is to be everything and “together”. I certainly feel that.

I have to separate my online and music profile, which has to be attractive, from normal life — it’s my job. I enjoy looking good and standing out anyway; so I always make an effort with my appearance. But it doesn’t bother me to head out without make-up some days. My worth comes from God’s love for me, and knowing that I’m making an eternal impact with the things that I do and say, and the music that I make. On days that I feel low and start comparing myself with others, I have to stop and consider that I’m not forgotten or ignored by God, and that I am so lucky to know him. I have to remember the small things: people who have been encouraged by my music and by my contribution to their life. I’ll probably never be a fashion icon, but I know that I’ve helped people, and that’s a lot more important to me.

Yes, singing pays the bills. I run a professional gospel and soul vocal group called Get Gospel, which is basically my day job, along with singing with other bands, arranging music, and writing songs. I feel really lucky to love my job.

The next thing I want to do is a UK tour.

I probably experienced God a number of times before I became a Christian. I grew up in the Catholic Church, and, through school, I went on a few retreats in which I was definitely aware of God being an incomprehensible being — which made me feel quite uncomfortable. I also must have felt God’s presence there. I was searching for God when I was between 16 and 18, but it wasn’t until I went to music college that I met born-again Christians who explained the gospel to me. I remember being cut to the heart that someone loved me enough to actually die for me. I’d never heard that before. From that point on, I committed my life to follow Jesus, and it has been incredible to know that God delights in the details of my life and will always be there.

Singing is an amazing tool to open up your spirit to God. It’s why there are so many exhortations in the Bible to sing praises to God, to let sounds and shouts out of your mouth. I believe music, singing, worship can affect the atmosphere around you, and cause the rest of creation to respond. If it’s good music, it can help me to connect to God in a deeper way, and I run a worship band in a Charismatic Anglican church now. We can struggle with not-so-great worship music, because our ears are accustomed to detail.

I grew up in a small town in Worcestershire, Bromsgrove. It was a pretty quiet childhood, with loads of music in it, and two sisters, and amazing parents. I went to music college in Manchester and stayed there for about eight years. Manchester is my spiritual home, but now I’m married to Oly, and we live in south-west London. It’s a lot less quiet, but I like being in the centre of activity.

I love eating out, swimming in the sea, being in the sunshine, travelling, hanging with friends, movies, going to amazing gigs. I love the sound of laughter.

People taking advantage of others makes me angry.

Singing and performing honestly make me really happy. I get pretty down when I go a number of days without gigging or practising.

I think confrontation demands courage from me. I’m your ordinary non-confrontational English girl. Working through issues with friends or bosses or pastors rather than walking away takes a lot a courage from me.

God is a brilliant strategist, and he never runs out of ideas; so that gives me hope for the future.

I pray most for God’s help, I think. And wisdom. I so often feel out of my depth.

If I was locked in a church for a few hours, I’d probably choose to be with Aimee Semple McPherson. She was an incredible evangelist, who used the creative arts to share the gospel and impact the entertainment industry. She was a strong female character who certainly had a lot of controversy around her, and yet managed to rise above the male culture of the 1900s to make waves across the United States. I would love to hear her story.

Jules Rendell was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.


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